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The Corps' top west coast general is readying his Marines for the next big war
The Marine Corps' top general on the west coast is readying his Marines for the next big war against a near peer competitor, and one of his main concerns is figuring out how to alter the mindset of troops that have been fighting insurgencies since 9/11.
"If anything my problem is getting people out of the mindset of [counterterrorism] and making sure they're thinking about near peer adversaries in their training programs," Lt. Gen. Joseph Osterman, commanding general of I Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton, California, told Task & Purpose in an interview on Friday.
Exercise Pacific Blitz is one program in particular that is currently doing just that, involving thousands of Marines, sailors, and coast guardsmen training in and around southern California. The joint exercise not only brings together a large number of personnel but various assets as well, including Navy ships and landing craft, CH-53 helicopters, V-22 Ospreys, F-35s, and High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), a ground-based artillery system the Marines have previously test-fired from amphibious transport ships.
The bigger picture goal: Getting a large force like the 50,000-strong I MEF from sea to shore in a contested environment, described by the general in a press release as leveraging "a Marine land component as part of our larger goal of sea control."
Osterman even said personnel were being put ashore at nearby Catalina Island to build aircraft runways — seemingly a throwback to the Marine Corps' island-hopping campaigns of World War II.
"It's not part of the exercise necessarily but that's kind of one of the things we'd have to do on these remote islands is build runways. So it's somewhat tangentially aligned," Osterman said. "We're doing connector capability between islands."
In February, Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told Task & Purpose the Corps had begun to move its training to a more traditional fight instead of what grunts would face against unsophisticated enemies in the Middle East, most notably in using more advanced enemies in force-on-force training against Marines going through pre-deployment training at 29 Palms, California.
"They had aircraft. They were able to jam [communications]. We had aircraft. And we fought force on force," Neller said on the sidelines of the 2019 West Conference in San Diego. "Marine infantry now, they've gotta look up" since enemies in Syria and Iraq have increasingly used unmanned aerial vehicles, and near peers will have assets such as attack helicopters and artillery.
As Osterman explained, Marine grunts now need to learn how to counter enemy drones, prepare for their GPS or communications to be jammed, and understand that enemy artillery, aircraft, or reconnaissance capabilities will be much more advanced if they're up against an adversary like China or Russia.
"We haven't had to worry about that for two decades," Osterman said. "The Taliban doesn't have any satellites up there."
Some of Osterman's Marines have already had a taste of that in Syria, where state and non-state actors have employed high-end anti-aircraft systems, GPS jamming technology, or hacking, for example.
"The Special Purpose [Marine Air Ground Task Force] we send to Central Command is engaged in all of that. High end, you know, kinetics in Syria, all the way down through advising the Iraqi forces. It's one where we've gotta do it all, frankly."
"Instead of having a forward operating base out there that they're living out of and doing operations they've actually got to constantly be moving because if they sit too long the enemy artillery is going to take them out," Osterman said of tactics Marines are beginning to think about. "So that gets them almost a little bit, back to [their] roots."
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Kade Kurita, the 20-year-old West Point cadet who had been missing since Friday evening, was found dead on Tuesday night, the U.S. Military Academy announced early Wednesday morning.
"We are grieving this loss and our thoughts and prayers go out to Cadet Kurita's family and friends," Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, superintendent of West Point, said in the release.
The Air Force is investigating whether an airman smoked weed at a missile alert facility for nuclear Minuteman ICBMs
The Air Force is investigating reports that an airman consumed marijuana while assigned to one of the highly-sensitive missile alert facility (MAF) responsible for overseeing 400 nuclear GM-30G Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota.
Mark Mitchell is stepping down as the acting assistant defense secretary for special operations and low-intensity conflict, a position he has held since late June, a defense official confirmed on Tuesday.
No information was immediately available about why Mitchell decided to resign. His last day will be Nov. 1 and he will be replaced by Thomas Alexander, who is currently leading the Defense Department's counternarcotics efforts, the defense official told Task & Purpose.
The U.S. Army's Next Generation Squad Weapon effort looked a lot more possible this week as the three competing weapons firms displayed their prototype 6.8mm rifles and automatic rifles at the 2019 Association of the United States Army's annual meeting.
Just two months ago, the Army selected General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems inc., Textron Systems and Sig Sauer Inc. for the final phase of the NGSW effort — one of the service's top modernization priorities to replace the 5.56mm M4A1 carbine and the M249 squad automatic weapon in infantry and other close-combat units.
Army officials, as well as the companies in competition, have been guarded about specific details, but the end result will equip combat squads with weapons that fire a specially designed 6.8mm projectile, capable of penetrating enemy body armor at ranges well beyond the current M855A1 5.56mm round.
There have previously been glimpses of weapons from two firms, but this year's AUSA was the first time all three competitors displayed their prototype weapons, which are distinctly different from one another.
US troops withdrawing to Iraq from Syria can't redeploy there and have to leave in 4 weeks, Baghdad says
The 1,000 U.S. troops leaving Syria will be allowed to stay in Iraq for at most four weeks, Iraq's defense minister said Wednesday, in an embarrassing rebuff to President Donald Trump's plans for withdrawing from Syria.
Najah al-Shammari's comments to the Associated Press came shortly after his meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who went to Baghdad to negotiate the redeployment of U.S. troops in Iraq after they withdrew from Syria.